A mother and three children, ages 11, 7 and 3, died early Monday in a fast-moving New York City house fire that also left the children’s father and two teenagers in critical condition.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that while the cause was still under investigation by fire marshals, “we know that unattended candles, overloaded outlets and power strips, and many of the holiday traditions we all hold dear are so often the cause.”
Friends and neighbours said the family was known to light menorah candles in celebration of Hanukkah.
“So often, tragedy strikes at this time of year, and the holidays make it that much more difficult because our communities should be celebrating, not mourning,” Nigro said in a statement, urging people to be safe.
“This is a terrible tragedy, not just for this community, but for our city,” Nigro said. “This time of year, when these things strike, it just tears your heart out for the family,” Nigro said. “Our city grieves with this family today.”
The fire was reported around 2:30 a.m. in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighbourhood and Nigro said it “got a good start before a neighbour noticed and called us.”
Firefighters arrived within 2 1/2 minutes but Nigro said the flames were already “consuming” all three floors of the building. He said that firefighters were met with flames at the front door, but “pushed in very aggressively” because they knew people were inside.
Aliza Azan, 39, was found dead on the second floor of the single-family home, near the children who perished: 11-year-old Moshe; 7-year-old Yitzah and 3-year-old Henrietta.
In all, nine people were in the house — the couple, their six children and a cousin.
“As a parent, it’s impossible for me to imagine what this family is going through right now,” said Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio. “During the holiday season, we all need to be cautious with decorations, electric lights, candles, space heaters and other items.”